About Those Blown Leads
….Canadiens fans and segments of the media are prone to periods of high anxiety the moment there is a glitch in the team’s performance. Last week’s three game losing streak qualifies on the anxiety meter and the main talking point was those blown third period leads against Boston, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. In the relative comfort of a two game winning perhaps we can take a more balanced view of those games.
The Bruins scored on two of their first three shots in the third to win 2-1 thanks mostly to the speed of Tyler Seguin. And both Pacioretty and Desharnais had great chances to tie the game later on. The Canadiens might have done a better job of burying their chances in the first period but it should be remembered that these are the Bruins, much as Montrealers hate admitting the thought. one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, still with only one loss in regulation time after eleven games.
Now to the Buffalo game, where the Canadiens led 4-1 in the third before Ryan White took that awful double minor penalty. Then Tomas Vanek scored on another power play to make it 4-3. The tieing goal was another one of in a long list of gaffes in what has become this season’s officiating gong show. With a couple of secoods left in regulation Steve Ott, standing in the crease, knocked Peter Budaj back into the net in full view of referee Tim Peel who was positioned behind the net. No call in a season where a mere brush-by of a goaltender draws an interference penalty. 1.9 seconds left and the game is tied on a play that is not reviewable. The Canadiens then lose in the shootout.
In Tampa, maybe we can blame the Situation Room replay people in Toronto for allowing Victor Hedman’s goal that narrowed the score to 4-3. Maybe they felt there was no conclusive proof that Hedman directed the puck into the net with his hand, but none other than former NHL referee Kerry Fraser disagreed in his TSN column. Tampa the tied the game with their goaltender out on Sami Salo’s pinball shot off Raphael Diaz skate.
As an aside, Fraser agreed with my assessment on that Vanek tieing goal in Buffalo as well although he had more sympathy for the referee than I did. Read it here.
It should be stated here that the Canadiens were beneficiary of one of those awful goaltender interference calls on Super Bowl Sunday when, what would have been the tieing goal in a 2-1 game as taken away from Ottawa becaus Jakob Silfverberg touched Carey Price who was well outside the crease.
Summing it up. Three blown leads, all with extenuating circumstances. The first against one of the league’s most explosive teams, the second and third, aided and abetted by officiating gaffes.
Time to relax. Until the next panic call.
…..There are a lot of things to feel positive about in the Canadiens performance so far this season. But if there’s one thing that is desperate need of attention it’s the Canadiens performance on faceoffs. For the eleventh time in the season’s 13 games Thursday the Canadiens were beaten badly. The Canadiens rank 28th in the league winning only 45.6%. (Edmonton and Buffalo are marginally worse). If the team doesn’t have any naturally-gifted centremen, then there are ways for the wingers to help out. So far it isn’t happening.
…By the way, recognizing the faceoff shortcomings of Plekanenec, Desharnais and Eller, Marc Bergevin tried to address the issue by re-signing free agent Petteri Nokelainen. Last year with the Canadiens Nokelainen won 53.4 percent of his draws. Unfortunately a recurrence of last season’s back injury has left him on the sidelines this season.
Injury List the Canadiens Big Difference in 2013
….Putting together the game preview for the Canadiens Flyers game Saturday night, I was struck again at the disastrous injury rate the team suffered last year. Almost 450 man-games lost, highest injury rate in the league. Going into the March 24th 4-1 loss in Philadelphia 33 percent of the team’s regulars were out with prolonged injuries. They were RW-Brian Gionta (IR-biceps surgery), LW-Travis Moen (IR-upper body), LW-Mathieu Darche (IR-concussion), D-Raphael Diaz (IR-groin); C-Scott Gomez (concussion); D-Tomas Kaberle (upper body); D-Yannick Weber (upper body). That loss 4-1 loss to the Flyers March 24th settled the Canadiens into 28th place in the standings, where they would remain. The up side of course – Alex Galchenyuk.
Robert Mayer Becomes Canadiens “Third” Goaltender
The average Canadiens fan pays only passing attention to the high and lows of their Hamilton Bulldogs farm team. The team made an interesting goaltending move this week. They sent Cedrick Desjardins back to Tampa Bay, apparently giving up on the idea that he could be the backup in case of an injury Carey Price and Peter Budaj. It leaves Hamilton with the unorthodox Robert Mayer as the Canadiens fallback. Peter Budaj will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. The likelihood of his re-signing is remote. That leaves Mayer who has been a long term Canadiens project mirroring that of Jaroslav Halak since they signed the Czech-born Swiss citizen to a three year contract as a 19 year-old out of the Saint John Seadogs of the QMJHL in 2009. They immediately sent him to the ECHL where he played a year before being promoted to Hamilton three seasons ago. This season all Mayer, has been able to do on a is win games behind a struggling team, something Desjardins was unable to do. Is he the answer, or do the Canadiens dip back into the free agent market as they did when they siged Budaj and, earlier Alex Auld.
Darche and Campoli Can’t Land a Job
Two members of last year’s Canadiens, Mathieu Darche and Chris Campoli, were very prominent in the often bitter negotiation between the NHL players association and the league over a new collective bargaining agreement. At the time both had become unrestricted free agents. We’re now in February and neither has found an NHL job, or a job anywhere in professional hockey. The immediate suspicion is, there is some kind of retribution being exacted on the part of the game’s hierarchy for their part in the negotiation process. Hard to believe, but the way the league behaved during the lockout makes one wonder. The Jersey Devils did give Darche a chance but opted for Alexei Ponikarovsky. Campoli never had an offer and signed with Geneva of the Swiss League. That contract was quickly annulled because of visa problems. Marginal talents they might be, but neither is looking for a rich multi-year deal. For whatever reasons, it appears that two hockey careers have ended much earlier than they should have.
…..We haven’t touched on the Canadiens junior prospects for a month now. Some good things have been happening, especially in Saskatoon where the Canadiens have two defensive prospects, Darren Dietz (2011-5th round-138th) and Dalton Thrower (2012-2nd round-51st). After a terrible start, Saskatoon, who will host this year’s Memorial Cup, have an active nine game winning streak going into Friday night’s game at Moose Jaw.
Apparently periodic visits by Canadiens roving coach Patrice Brisebois have helped out Dietz. During the winning streak, he has four goals and eight assists and is plus-16. He is still minus-4 overall, which tells you how difficult the early part of his season was. The 6’1” – 205 lb. In 55 games he has 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points and leads all WHL defencemen with 10 power play goals.. Dietz, who is a right hand shot, will graduate to the Hamilton Bulldogs next season.
…..We’ll have to reserve opinion on Thrower. He had early season disciplinary problems and an injury which has limited his season to 40 games. The 6’0” 200 pound Thrower is plus-16, which is promising. He’ll be returning to Saskatoon next year.
…..Similar story in Kamloops B.C. where 2012 third round pick Tim Bozon is toiling. The Chiefs left wing had a dry spell that stretched through all of November and into early December. Since then, his game has been rekindled. In his last 18 games he has 13 goals and 15 assists and Kamloops has won five in a row and nine of their last eleven.
…..The Canadiens number one prospect in the “Q”, Chicoutimi left wing Charles Hudon, is in a scoring drought with only two assists in his last six games. He has 25 goals and 52 points in 43 games. 2011 4th round pick Olivier Archambault, a left winger is a troubling minus-6 on a Drummonville team with a winning record. Archambault has 22 goals and 27 assists in 50 games.
….With Alex Galchenyuk now up with the Canadiens there’s only one prospect left in the OHL. Windsor centre Brady Vail has a sporadic 17 goals and 26 assists and is minus-13.